Archive for the 'Ships' Category

Oct 26

Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 12:01 AM

The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands occurred when Task Forces 16 and 17, under Rear Adm. Thomas C. Kinkaid and Rear Adm. George D. Murray, respectively, fought numerically superior Japanese forces under Vice Adm. Nagumo Chuichi that supported an overland thrust by Japanese troops at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

SBD-3 Dauntlesses of VB-8 and VS-8 from HORNET (CV 8) damaged the carrier SHOKAKU and the destroyer TERUTSUKI, and TBF-1 Avengers of VT-6 from HORNET damaged the heavy cruiser CHIKUMA. In addition, Dauntlesses of VS-10 from ENTERPRISE (CV 6) damaged the light carrier ZUIHO. Japanese planes from SHOKAKU and the light carrier JUNYO twice damaged ENTERPRISE, however, killing 44 men and wounding 75 more. Aircraft from SHOKAKU, ZUIKAKU, and JUNYO tore into HORNET in a coordinated attack, during which in barely 10 minutes two torpedoes, four bombs, and a crashing Aichi D3A1 Type 99 carrier bomber struck HORNET, setting her ablaze.

While HUGHES (DD 410), which had been damaged by friendly fire earlier in the action, aided the battle against Hornet’s fires and took off survivors, the destroyer collided with the carrier. The destroyers ANDERSON (DD 411) and MUSTIN (DD 413) attempted to scuttle the irreparably damaged HORNET with gunfire and torpedoes, but she defiantly remained afloat. The Japanese destroyers AKIGUMO and MAKIGUMO sank HORNET the following day.

Meanwhile, Japanese aircraft from JUNYO damaged the battleship SOUTH DAKOTA (BB 57) and the light cruiser SAN JUAN (CL 54); a crashing carrier attack plane struck the destroyer SMITH (DD 378); and a battle-damaged TBF-1 from VT-10 accidentally torpedoed the destroyer PORTER (DD 356) as the Avenger ditched. PORTER was deemed beyond salvage and scuttled by the destroyer SHAW (DD 373). The Japanese lost almost 100 planes and the Americans 74.

While this battle was a tactical naval victory for the Japanese, U.S. Marines and soldiers repulsed the enemy’s simultaneous land offensive on Guadalcanal, thwarting the Japanese from fully exploiting their triumph and thus conferring a strategic victory to the Americans. The dwindling number of Japanese carrier planes failed to destroy Henderson Field, and fuel shortages compelled the Combined Fleet to retire on Truk Lagoon in the Caroline Islands and to eventually surrender control of the skies above the sea routes to Guadalcanal.

 
Oct 24

USS PRINCETON (CVL 23) Sunk, 24 October 1944

Monday, October 24, 2011 12:01 AM

 At daybreak on 24 October 1944, as Japanese navy forces approached the Philippines from the north and west, Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman’s Task Group 38.3 was operating more than a hundred miles east of central Luzon. With other elements of Admiral William F. Halsey’s Third Fleet, TG38.3 had spent the last several days pounding enemy targets ashore in support of the Leyte invasion operation. This morning Sherman’s four carriers, ESSEX (CV 9), LEXINGTON (CV 16), PRINCETON (CVL 23), and LANGLEY (CVL 27), had sent off fighters for self-protection and other planes on search missions. Still more aircraft were on deck, ready for attack missions.

Though the Japanese had sent out many aircraft to strike the Third Fleet, most were shot down or driven away. However one “Judy” dive bomber made it through and at 0938 planted a 250-kilogram bomb on PRINCETON’s flight deck, somewhat aft of amidships. It exploded in the crew’s galley after passing through the hangar, in which were parked six TBM bombers, each with full gasoline tanks and a torpedo. In its passage the bomb struck one of these planes, which was almost immediately ablaze. The carrier’s firefighting sprinklers did not activate and the entire hangar space was quickly engulfed, while smoke penetrated compartments below. PRINCETON was still underway, but at 1002 a heavy explosion rocked the after part of the hangar. This blast was followed by three more, which heaved up the flight deck, blew out both aircraft elevators, and quickly made much of the ship uninhabitable.

With all but emergency generator power gone, and much of her crew abandoning ship, PRINCETON now depended on the light cruisers BIRMINGHAM (CL 62) and RENO (CL 96), plus the destroyers IRWIN (DD 794) and MORRISON (DD 560), to help fight her fires. While alongside, MORRISON’s superstructure was seriously damaged when she became entangled in PRINCETON’s projecting structures. After more than three hours’ work, with the remaining fires almost under control, a report of approaching enemy forces forced the other ships to pull away. By the time they returned, PRINCETON was again burning vigorously, heating a bomb storage space near her after hangar. At 1523, as BIRMINGHAM came alongside, these bombs detonated violently, blowing off the carrier’s stern, showering the cruiser’s topsides with fragments, and killing hundreds of men. There was now no hope that PRINCETON could be saved. Her remaining crewmen were taken off and IRWIN attempted to scuttle her with torpedoes and gunfire, but with no success. Finally, RENO was called in to finish the job. One of her torpedoes hit near the burning ship’s forward bomb magazine and PRINCETON disappeared in a tremendous explosion. She was the first U.S. fleet carrier sunk in more than two years, and the last lost during the Pacific War.

 
Oct 17

Innovative Scientific Analysis Tool at Underwater Archaeology Conservation Lab

Monday, October 17, 2011 1:54 PM

Dr. Raymond Hayes (left) and Head Conservator George Schwarz examine p-XRF data taken from a Civil War-era Aston pistol recovered from USS HOUSATONIC at the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

NHHC volunteer, Dr. Raymond Hayes, Professor Emeritus at Howard University, Washington DC, and Woods Hole Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, has partnered with the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory (UACL) to analyze archaeological materials from historic naval shipwrecks.

Dr. Hayes has been awarded a Research & Discovery Grant from Olympus INNOV-X to examine archaeological components from shipwrecks using an innovative Delta portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) unit. This state-of-the-art technology uses an x-ray beam to identify the specific elements present within archaeological material. Dr. Hayes’ research endeavors to use this data to trace the elemental composition of a wood sample back to original construction materials, marine sediments, and sealing or fastening materials applied to wooden ships. Included in the study are data from USS Housatonic, USS Tulip, and CSS Alabama, as well as recently recovered artifacts from the 2011 USS Scorpion field project, the archaeological investigation of a Patuxent River shipwreck believed to be the flagship of the Chesapeake Bay Flotilla, which fought to defend Washington D.C. from the British during the War of 1812. As part of the Navy’s commemoration of the Flotilla’s important role in the War of 1812, a full excavation of the USS Scorpion site is anticipated.

Scientific technologies like pXRF provide archaeologists and conservators valuable chemical information that can be used to better conserve and interpret submerged cultural heritage. An innovative feature of pXRF devices is that they can be used in both the laboratory and the field to analyze artifacts recovered from wet environments. Artifacts from underwater sites can be difficult to initially identify as they may be encased within thick concretions or obscured by unidentifiable corrosion products, however, pXRF data can give archaeologists data which can signal the presence of an artifact. 

Detail of portable X-Ray Fluorescence machine collecting data from Civil War-era pistol.

Following recovery from underwater archaeological sites, artifacts are particularly susceptible to damage caused by soluble salts (e.g., chlorides) accumulated from the water or sediment that surrounded them for decades or even centuries. If allowed to crystallize, the salts expand and cause catastrophic damage which may result in complete destruction of the artifact. Data from pXRF can determine the concentration of chlorine within an artifact to help conservators understand the degree of salt contamination and mitigate it properly. During conservation, pXRF can help conservators develop the most optimal treatment plan for artifacts and reveal the presence of toxic components, such as lead, cadmium or arsenic. Comparative data may also reveal similarities or differences in artifact composition that could suggest age and geographic origins.

This is only one part of the extensive research that goes on at the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Lab, where over 2300 artifacts recovered from US Navy shipwrecks and aircraft wrecks are curated, 140 of which are currently undergoing active conservation treatment. The Laboratory, located in BL 46 of WNYD, also hosts public tours showcasing important artifacts that span from the American Revolution to World War II and make the Navy’s history come alive! Please feel free to contact us anytime (202.433.9731) if you’d like to visit!

 For more information about the NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch and the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory, please visit http://www.history.navy.mil/underwater.

 
Oct 6

USS BAINBRIDGE Commissioned, 6 October 1962

Thursday, October 6, 2011 12:01 AM

The nuclear-powered guided missile frigate USS BAINBRIDGE (DLGN 25) commissioned on 6 October 1962. Her first Mediterranean deployment began in February 1963, and included demonstrations of her long-range high speed dash capabilities and operations with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier ENTERPRISE (CVAN 65). BAINBRIDGE returned to the Mediterranean in May 1964, this time joining ENTERPRISE and the guided missile cruiser LONG BEACH (CGN 9) to form the first all-nuclear-powered task group. At the end of July the three ships began Operation Sea Orbit, a two-month unrefueled cruise around the world.

In October 1965 BAINBRIDGE again rounded the Cape of Good Hope, en route to the Western Pacific for the first of eleven Seventh Fleet cruises. Operating for much of this deployment off Vietnam, she screened aircraft carriers, served as a radar-picket ship, and performed search and rescue missions. In June the frigate crossed the Pacific to her new home port, Long Beach, California. Between 1966 and 1973 she conducted five additional Far Eastern tours, which involved additional Vietnam War combat operations as well as voyages to Australia and, beginning in 1970, the Indian Ocean. In 1967-1968 BAINBRIDGE underwent shipyard overhaul and her first nuclear refueling. The ship’s seventh trip to the Far East, beginning in November 1973, included a lengthy visit to the Arabian Sea, a locale that would become very familiar in the coming decades.

BAINBRIDGE received an extensive modernization and refueling between June 1974 and September 1976, with post-overhaul work lasting until April 1977. While in the shipyard, at the end of June 1975, she was reclassified from frigate to cruiser, receiving the new designation CGN 25. Her next Seventh Fleet deployment ran from January to August 1978 and included visits throughout the region, from Japan and Korea to Thailand and Singapore, with her homeward-bound voyage taking her to Australia and through the South Pacific. BAINBRIDGE made three more WestPac tours from 1979 to 1983, each of which involved extensive operations in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

After receiving her final nuclear refueling overhaul in 1983-1985, BAINBRIDGE left the Pacific after two decades, transited the Panama Canal and rejoined the Atlantic Fleet. Her operations thereafter comprised counter-drug smuggling patrols in the Caribbean; several deployments to northern European waters; and four Mediterranean cruises, including combat operations off Libya in 1991-1992, a Red Sea and Arabian Gulf tour, and service as the flagship of the Standing Naval Forces, Atlantic, in 1994. Inactivated in October 1995, BAINBRIDGE decommissioned in September 1996.

 
Oct 2

INDEPENDENCE Operates in Arabian Gulf, 2 October 1990

Sunday, October 2, 2011 12:01 AM

On 1 October 1990 the carrier INDEPENDENCE (CV 62) transited the Strait of Hormuz en route to the Arabian Gulf. The following day she conducted flight operations in the Gulf, becoming the first carrier to do so since CONSTELLATION (CV 64) had operated there in 1974.

INDEPENDENCE (CV 62) left the Gulf on 4 October, following three days of sailing in its confined and shallow waters. A Pentagon spokesman said that the aircraft carrier had successfully completed her mission, which was “to demonstrate to our friends and allies in the region that it is possible to put a carrier in the Gulf and carry out operations.”

 
Sep 26

Ranger’s Keel Laid, 26 September 1931

Monday, September 26, 2011 12:01 AM

On 26 September 1931 Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News, Va., laid the keel for the first U.S. Navy ship to be designed and built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier. Ranger (CV 4) was commissioned on 4 June 1934 at the Norfolk Navy Yard, with Capt. Arthur L. Bristol in command. She made a shakedown cruise to South America prior to transferring to the Pacific in early 1935. For nearly four years she participated in fleet problems reaching to Hawaii, and in western seaboard operations that took her as far south as Callao, Peru, and as far north as Seattle, Wash. Ranger returned to the Atlantic in 1939, where she remained for most of the rest of her service. Ranger took part in Neutrality Patrols after war broke out in Europe in September 1939, with these operations becoming increasingly intense during 1941.

The early months of 1942 saw Ranger engaged in war operations in the South Atlantic, followed by service carrying U.S. Army fighter planes to West African bases in April and July. In November 1942 she was an important element in Operation Torch, providing air cover for the invasion of Morocco. Ranger was assigned to work with the British Home Fleet in the northeastern Atlantic from August to November 1943, during which time she launched strikes on German shipping along the Norwegian coast.

Following training and aircraft transportation duty in early 1944, Ranger was overhauled and sent to the Pacific, where she arrived in July. She spent the rest of World War II preparing air groups for combat operations. The carrier returned to the Atlantic after Japan’s surrender and remained there until she was decommissioned in October 1946. Ranger was sold for scrapping in January 1947.

 
Sep 25

Silver Anniversary of USS Enterprise (CVN-65) Commissioning

Sunday, September 25, 2011 1:00 AM

September 25th, 1961

Commissioning of USS Enterprise (CVN-65)

Fifty years ago USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was commissioned.  The biggest ship in the world at the time, Enterprise was certainly unique. However, as an article in the May 1961 issue of Proceedings noted, the name of such a unique ship was hardly new. Instead, Enterprise inherited in its name a rich Naval history with origins in the Revolutionary War and notable achievements in various Naval battles. The article, compiled from Navy Department releases, relates the unique & varied history of a name shared by eight different ships:

The first Enterprise was a 70-ton sloop which originally belonged to the British and cruised on Lake Champlain to supply their posts in Canada. After the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by the Americans on 10 May 1775, she became the object of desire in the mind of Benedict Arnold, who realized he would not have control of Lake Champlain until her capture. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Aug 12

USS SCORPION Project 2011: Final Week

Friday, August 12, 2011 4:08 PM

1 August, 2011 - 

This begins the final week of excavation on the 2011 USS Scorpion Project! The team will work together this week to continue to investigate the wreck, map the site and recover artifacts. The team was pleased to welcome 7 staff members on site from NHHC Commemorations  and gave them a tour of the barges and explained the details of the archaeological operation.  

 

A diver recovers the starboard cathead.

2 August, 2011-

Today, the archaeology team recovered two important pieces of the ship’s architecture which they believe to be “catheads.” Wooden vessels commonly had a pair of these thick, L-shaped beams incorporated into either side of the bow (one portside, one starboardside). One arm of the “L” projected out over the water and allowed sailors to raise and lower the anchor without causing damage to the side of the ship; the catheads were also strong enough to carry the heavy anchors suspended over the water while the ship was underway. The starboard cathead recovered from the site is in quite good condition and still has the iron components intact…a rare find and an important discovery! 

 
 
 

Archaeologists examine the iron block recovered from the wreck site.

3 August, 2011-

Another interesting find today! The team recovered an iron block from the site; the archaeologists hypothesize that it may have been used as ballast. Sailors often placed heavy material such as stone or metal into the hold of a ship to help stabilize and balance it while underway; the ballast could be moved about the hold as needed to compensate for any changes in the weight distribution of the vessel. Before excavation took place, a magnetometer survey was conducted on the wreck site; several strongly magnetic anomalies were detected…one of which may have been this block! 

 4 August, 2011- 

Today, the UAB dive team spent most of the day near the stern of the vessel measuring and mapping the area. Unlike the bow, the stern is a bit disarticulated with no real structure. When the Chesapeake Bay Flotilla was ordered scuttled, historical accounts are unclear as to how it was actually done. Firsthand accounts from 22 August, 1814 report that the British troops marching on Bladensburg were able to see flames in the distance (presumably from scuttling the Chesapeake Bay Flotilla); this may indicate that rather than puncturing the ships’ hulls to sink the vessels, sailors burned or placed kegs of gunpowder aboard and exploded them to prevent British capture. Although archaeologists have not observed charring on the architecture of the stern, the absence of an intact stern when the bow is so solidly intact, suggests that gunpowder may have been the method used to scuttle the ship. More research will need to be conducted before a solid conclusion is determined. 

Dr. Julie Schablitsky, MSHA, holds the glass pharmaceutical bottle recovered from the wreck site.

 

5 August, 2011 -

 An exciting artifact was recovered today: a small, cylindrical glass bottle with a slightly rounded foot and a flared lip. The bottle is pale green in color, measures approximatly four inches and likely held some type of medicinal liquid or ointment. This bottle is nearly identical to those recovered by Donald Shomette in the original investigation of the wreck in 1980. As flagship of the Chesapeake Bay Flotilla, USS Scorpion would have likely had a surgeon on board; the bottle will join other previously recovered medical artifacts such as a tooth key and surgical scissors, which are on display in the National Museum of the United States Navy on the Washington Navy Yard. The bottle has been brought back to the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Lab at the Washington Navy Yard for further analysis and conservation.

A pair of surgical scissors recovered from the wreck site.

 6 August, 2011 -

 More exciting artifacts recovered today! In the morning, the team first recovered a pair of scissors. The scissors appear to be made of an iron alloy and are in remarkably good condition. Because of their small size and very fine, sharp blade, such scissors were likely part of a surgeon’s kit. This pair bears a resemblence to another recovered during the 1980 excavation, however the blades on this pair are straight. Later on in the afternoon, the team recovered a small stoneware jug. One of the most exciting details about the jug is that it was recovered with air inside; which may have been produced as the contents of the jug decomposed over time. The team managed to trap the air within the jug following recovery and may be able to chemically analyze it using a process called gas chromatography to determine the original contents of the container.

 At the end of the day, the team began to backfill the parts of the wreck where they had been working throughout the project. Backfilling refers to the process of redistributing the previously removed sediment back around the wreck. It is important that the site remain covered until the next and final phase of the Scorpion Project; the thick clay and sediment help protect and preserve the ship and its contents beneath the river bed.

 As the 2011 field season draws to a close, UAB sincerely thanks the Naval History & Heritage Command for its continued support of the USS Scorpion Project, and partners Maryland Historical Trust and Maryland State Highways Administration for their hard work and cooperation. UAB also thanks nautical archaeologists Heather Brown and Bradley Krueger, who joined the UAB team for the project, and also our fantastic summer interns who worked on site: Sarah Cahlan, Melissa Campbell, Ryan Frazier, Maria Grenchik, Chris Kelly, John Rees and Marcus Schweinfurth. Thanks to all who came to visit us on site and followed our progress on the blog. Stay tuned for the next phase of the project and to see the artifacts as they progress through the conservation process!

 
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